Monday, 28 April 2014

In defense of Anglophilia

It came to my attention some years ago that I am something of an Anglophile. English culture, English history, English countryside and, most of all, English Literature compel and enchant me. My life in Australia has, no doubt, a lot to do with this obsession. Even though my childhood here has connected me more firmly to a wild natural beauty than I could ever have been to the serene and gentle English countryside, I have always longed for the immense and charted history embedded in the soil of that dreary little isle. Oh! to wander on the moors with Kathy and take a turn in that prettyish kind of little wilderness with Lizzy. It's little wonder that the Romantic poets and their obsession with the Picturesque hold such a fascination for me. 

I came across something in Donna Tartt's The Secret History that summed up my experience very neatly. When choosing Hampden College, Richard admits that
"even the name had an austere Anglican cadence, to my ear at least, which yearned hopelessly for England and was dead to the sweet dark rhythms of the little mission towns."
Is this, then, something experienced by all those in love with English literature but stranded in the colonies? There is something about the literature of a place that imbues the land with an alluring magic that calls to people across the sea. Perhaps the enchantment is a two way process. Perhaps the magic of the land leaks into those who brood upon it. If Keats were living in Arizona, do you think he would have written La Belle Dame sans Merci?:
"I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy's child; 
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild."
But when Keats wrote this, some of that enchantment went back into the land that inspired it.  Every piece of writing about England adds to the magic of the place. Hey, I'm not saying other places aren't great too. I'm just saying that there's a special magic about that.

No comments:

Post a Comment